Yoav Galant
GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday ended weeks of speculation by naming Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant as the next chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces.

Galant's chances in the race to lead the Israeli military had been thrown into doubt in the wake of a scandal involving a forged document, which suggested the general had attempted to smear rivals and nearly put an end to his campaign.

Barak said he would ask the cabinet to approve the appointment at its weekly meeting on August 29, saying he had consulted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before making his final decision on the replacement for Gabi Ashkenazi, the current chief.

Commenting on the appointment, Netanyahu said Barak had made the right choice in Galant, the 51-year-old head of the IDF's Southern Command, who began his military career as a navy commando.

The selection would end a period of uncertainty that had damaged the IDF, Netanyahu said in an apparent reference to the storm over the 'Galant document', which dominated headlines in Israel in weeks preceeding Barak's pick.

Leaked to Channel 2 television from inside the military, the document bore the logo of a well-known public relations adviser and outlined a plan for Galant to smear rivals for the post of army chief. Police now believe it to be a fake.

After picking Galant, Barak said he had urged the unsuccessful candidates to continue in their roles within the IDF.

However, IDF sources say Maj. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and Maj. Gen Benjamin Gantz are now likely to retire from the army. Two other candidates, Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi and Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, are expected to compete for the post of deputy chief.

Ashkenazi won praise from Barak, who promised the outgoing chief full support until the end of his term in February. But the defense minister has been unable to mask growing tension in his relationship with his top commander.

In April, Barak announced that he would not extend Ashkenazi's term to a fifth year, while the minister has been accused undermining the chief's position by appointing his successor at such an early stage.

In August, Ashkenazi told an inquiry into Israel's May 31 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that he took full responsibility for the operation, which left nine civilians dead and drew worldwide condemnation.